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Companies clean up their act

Published on Friday, 04 Mar 2011
Clockwise from top left: Wharf T&T staff learn about conservation; HSBC’s Teresa Au (right) hands a LOOP gold label to Wharf T&T’s Florence Cheung; Wharf T&T staff join the LOOP programme; WWF-Hong Kong’s Karen Ho.

Introduction of LOOP programme gives firms the ability to manage their carbon emissions, writes John Cremer

It is one thing for Hong Kong companies to see the need to cut carbon emissions, but another to get them to act. To help bridge that divide, environmental non-profit group WWF introduced the low carbon office operation (LOOP) programme in 2009, giving businesses tools, activities and guidelines to manage their carbon performance more effectively.

Activities include workshops, seminars and forums for sharing best practices. To give companies a better understanding of their emissions profile and the potential for reductions, there are questionnaires for self-evaluation, online carbon calculation software and practical suggestions.

The companies are assessed annually by qualified third-party agencies, including Business Environment Council, Det Norske Veritas, Reset Carbon and SGS Hong Kong. To be accredited, companies are assessed on items such as their water consumption, lighting and staff commuting. There are four types of labels: certified, silver, gold and platinum.

“The response has been very positive,” says Karen Ho, WWF-Hong Kong's business engagement leader for climate. “Sixty companies have committed to the programme and 14 have completed the process to receive our accreditation label.”

Feedback from participants in the scheme has pointed to numerous benefits. The scheme gives a method to measure and monitor carbon emissions in-house and to establish data for improvement. It encourages dialogue and the exchange of ideas with like-minded companies. And it has a positive impact in terms of employee loyalty and team involvement.

The programme – currently only in Hong Kong with plans to be rolled out across the region – aims to effect change in general management policy, use of technology and staff behaviour. Specific recommendations cover such things as establishing a “green” committee to oversee progress, using video conferences to cut business travel, only purchasing equipment with energy labels, and drilling staff to “reduce, reuse and recycle”.

“We want companies to calculate their carbon footprint and include an emissions reduction target as one of their key performance indicators,” Ho says.

“The risk of climate change means there has to be a rethink about business purposes and processes. For this, they should consider [carrying out] annual third-party verification to validate their data and on-site assessments of organisational and individual employee behaviour against an agreed set of criteria.”

As one of the first recipients of the gold LOOP label, information and communications technology service provider Wharf T&T has acted on such advice.

Action taken includes recycling and the launch of a green procurement policy that promotes electronic communication over paper-based transactions. It is estimated this has prevented use of 90,000 sheets of paper since July last year.

The principle has been extended to encourage scanning with multifunction copiers, rather than printing, and by implementing an “e-leave” process for all staff applying for time off.

Among other examples, Plans are in place to install energy-efficient T5 fluorescent lighting wherever possible, and there is a “no idling engine” initiative for all company vehicles.

“Briefing sessions have been arranged for all existing staff to increase awareness,” says Florence Cheung, Wharf T&T's vice-president for human resources. “We have a committee with representatives from different business units to formulate environmental protection programmes. And “By encouraging staff and their families to participate in LOOP-related events, we aim to advocate a low-carbon lifestyle, so [the right practices] become a habit for everyone in Hong Kong.”

Besides studying areas for improvement across all internal operations, the next step will be to promote the green message more actively to partners and stakeholders.

“We want to lead by example. The LOOP method is a user-friendly tool which has helped us plan for future improvement in a quantitative manner,” Cheung says.


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